CSaP is “about the advancement of knowledge, the dissemination of knowledge, and having interesting conversations.”
The most valuable things CSaP has offered me have been the opportunity to get out of the departmental silo, and the chance to meet all sorts of genuinely interesting people that I normally would not have the opportunity to have discussions with. The things CSaP does that I find the most interesting are very frequently the furthest things from my day job. Roundtables that stick out in my mind include quantum, genomics and genetics, and the future of work. Breaking out of my silo gives me the opportunity to engage with interesting things that are going on in the intellectual world, to have conversations that leave me better informed, and then to think about how I might bring that back to my work.
We have one of the best civil services in the world, and some of the best universities. If you want to open up policymaking to make service delivery public-centric, bringing together universities and policymakers is a key part of that. There has been a cultural shift over the course of my time as a Permanent Secretary. People began having more conversations about what the research world can offer public policy advice, while universities have begun to use academic levers to open up the world. Government commitments around research, particularly through UKRI, has helped to bring this area front and center. CSaP, and the increasing proliferation of public policy programs at British universities, are examples of success stories in this area. Nationally, however, there is still room for improvement. We need to develop stronger relationships with a greater diversity of universities across the country.
CSaP provides an absolutely brilliant service, and what I would like to see going forward is the development of similar knowledge centers in other parts of the academic world aimed at different types of civil servant. CSaP has developed an interesting model for building a different type of relationship between policymaking and academia, and I would like to see the same kind of model used in various other fields of public life.